A personal relationship with God is central to Evangelical belief. It unfolds as believers interpret internal sensations as coming from outside—from God. How does the formulaic design of testimonies present the audience with a personal relationship with God as a pursuit that is both feasible and deeply desirable? Analyzing the discursive rules structuring the appearance of emotion in the most popular testimonies on the online platform of Christianity Today reveals that such texts expertly present a microcosm in which the experience of reading mirrors the trajectory toward belief writers describe. To read a testimony from start to finish, readers must choose to tolerate the unfamiliar: that is, feel emotions that specifically belong in an Evangelical frame. Online written testimony relies on compelling storytelling to move readers, making them practise what it feels like to hand over part of one’s own story to God.
This article investigates the construction and transmission of charisma through online channels and its role in the formation of religious identities. Mindful of Max Weber’s observation that charisma inhabits the relationship between a leader and his/her followers, I argue for a critical reappraisal of the theoretical model in the light of the ubiquity in the twenty-first century of new, virtual forms of social encounter. I focus my analysis on the Christian creationist movement in the United States and particularly on an influential leader called Ken Ham. Using digital ethnographic methods, I show how Ham constructs charisma online and how a virtual community forms itself around his charismatic claims. I illustrate how this virtual community intersects with offline worlds and suggest that the theme park attractions that Ham’s organisation runs (Creation Museum, Ark Encounter) are imbued with deflected charisma by virtue of their association with his online avatar.
Kołodziejska, Marta and Anna Neumaier. 2017. Between individualisation and tradition: transforming religious authority on German and Polish Christian online discussion forums,” Religion 47(2): 228-255
Abstract: The aim of this paper is to connect the debates on individualisation and mediatisation of religion and transformations of religious authority online on theoretical and empirical basis. The classical and contemporary concepts of individualisation of religion, rooted in the secularisation debate, will be connected with Campbell’s [2007. “Who’s Got the Power? Religious Authority and the Internet.” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 12 (3): 1043–1062] concept of four layers of religious authority online. The empirical material consists of a joint analysis of German Christian and Polish Catholic Internet forums. In a transnational comparison, the findings show similar tendencies of individualisation and emerging communities of choice, as well as a lasting significance of textual religious authorities, although different levels of authority are negotiated and emphasised to a varying extent. However, in both cases critique of the Church and religion usually emerges offline, and is then expressed online. While the forums do not have a subversive potential, they facilitate adopting a more independent, informed, and reflexive approach to religion.
Abstract: Most scholarly discussions of autism and religion presuppose the absent self theory of autism. The theory holds that autistic persons lack a sense of self and anticipates that they will have trouble relating to a personal God and assigning religious meaning to their lives. I argue that the theory is untestable, which leaves scholars of religion with a choice: either we can say, with proponents of the absent self theory, that autistic persons lack a self, a choice that cuts religious studies off from the lived theologies of autistic persons of faith; or we can view autistic persons of faith as authority voices on their religious self-experience. As an example of what scholars of religion stand to gain by choosing the latter, I present an ethnography of autistic Christians in three web communities. These autistic Christians construct a distinctively Christian understanding of neurodiversity and a distinctively aspie understanding of God.
Abstract: Drawing on the ethnographic study of the Norwegian Facebook group Yes to wearing the cross whenever and wherever I choose, this article focuses on the emotive performance of conflict. The author delves into the multitude of ways in which emotion appears to drive the conflict(s) in Yes to wearing the cross whenever and wherever I choose. This Facebook group, by virtue of dealing with religion and identity issues contains typical trigger themes, which may lead audiences to emotively enact conflict. Still, these modes of enactment of conflict cannot be understood as a characteristic of religious strife alone. Drawing on Papacharissi’s concept of ‘affective publics’ this article compares the modes of conflict performance, the most salient frames, trigger themes, and emotive cues in this Facebook group to findings from other studies about mediatized conflict. The analysis demonstrates that mediatized conflicts appear to be emotively performed in very similar, at times even identical ways, across a variety of themes and contexts. Participatory media audiences’ tendency to remediate conflicts in ways that draw on an abundance of emotional cues appears to be integral to the enactment of mediatized conflicts. It is argued that we ought to speak not only of affective publics but also of the politics of affect.
Burrow-Branine, Jonathan. 2015. “Blogging while gay and Christian: Andrew Sullivan and the production of the religious, secular, and sexual.” Culture and Religion: An Interdisciplinary Journal. DOI:10.1080/14755610.2015.1019897
Abstract: This article examines blogger and political pundit Andrew Sullivan’s performance of gay Christian identity through his weblog, The Dish. Through a reading of the repetitive and collaborative nature of The Dish as a medium of cultural production, I argue that Sullivan’s gay Christian performance is made legible by how the religious and secular are articulated and negotiated through the site of the body in American culture. Sullivan’s performance both reproduces and resists religious and secular normativities while at the same time produces a singular identity with distinct political and social advantages. Among other advantages, examining how the religious and secular are articulated through everyday discourse and embodied performance exposes some of the political investments in this articulation and provides a space to consider the stakes of scholars’ own investments in ‘secular’ knowledge.